What is Ransomware & How to Recover from Ransomware Attack ?

Technology Overview, August 1, 2016

Ransomware has been hitting a lot of businesses and government organizations for illegal financial gains. However, there is a huge gap between being aware about a Ransomware attack and being its victim.

So what exactly is Ransomware ?

Ransomware is a term used to define the criminal act of spreading a malware that captures the victim’s data without their consent, by the means of encryption. The victim is asked to pay a ransom in exchange of the decryption key, to free their data.

This malware is commonly spread via infected attachment received through emails, infected software, or by using compromised websites. However, technological advancement has also taken place with time leading to different strategies being adopted for the spread of this malware.

Defeating an Attack of Ransomware

Can you ever recover from a ransomware attack?

The answer to this frequently asked question is ‘Yes’, but with conditions applied. Cybercrime is common these days and it is almost next to impossible for one to remain unaffected by its damage for a long time. Therefore, recovering from the condition becomes a necessary demand by end users.

However, recovering from damage does not necessarily demand you to break through it. It could also be, relying on the precautionary measures that were taken previously.

Conditions: Business Continuity Plans, better known as BCP, always prove to be helpful when conditions, as catastrophic as this, take place. A simple backup is the key to recover from ransomware attack.

Therefore, when asking how to recover from a ransomware attack, you already have the answer with you. The following segment offers information about plans to recover from a Ransomware attack:

  1. Data Replication: Enterprises should ensure that their data be protected via means like snapshot, replication, or frequent incremental block level backup. However, one must take a note that this should be done with complete understanding about the fact that information added or modified since the backup will not be lost and not included.
  2. Laptop Protection: Users, who are always on the go, save and change data separate from a corporate NAS or file server. Protection of these devices must be a standard procedure for organizations but is not for many. Despite the availability of products offering data protection on laptops abundantly, most prefer to protect data only on a scheduled basis.
  3. Sync and Share Apps: The best recovery option in case of a ransomware attack is the usage of sync-and-share tools. These products are programmed to update the corporate NAS (Network Attached Storage) or the file share as soon as a change in data is made by the users. Chances of recovery become higher even in the unfortunate event of ransomware because the data remain in synchronization.

NOTE: Enterprises have also come up with offerings of adding the capability of – detecting the attack – turning off the synchronization – and alerting the administrator of a potential threat to deal with the attack more diligently.

Different Approaches Made for a Ransomware Attack

The primary motto of an offender in any cybercrime is generally to gain monetary benefits. In the case of a ransomware attack, different approaches are made in order to fulfill such motives.

  1. Data Inaccessibility: The attackers make data on a compromised machine inaccessible for their victim. A mail is sent with the demand for ransom to regain accessibility of this data with the warning that the key shall be destroyed if the payment is not made.
  2. Dupe the Victim: The victim is made to believe that they are subject of a police inquiry owing to the possession of unlicensed software or illicit web content on their computer. Therefore, they are given instructions on how to pay a fine for the same which is actually a form of ransomware attack.
  3. Data Encryption: The data on victim’s machine is encrypted yet kept safe from any other harm. This is a slightly slow approach because here it is assumed that the victim will look up for a solution on the internet and will buy anti-ransomware software from legitimate websites that are actually used by the attackers themselves.

Prevention is Always Better Than Cure

Anyone would prefer to have a solution in hand than look for it everywhere. Therefore, Business Continuity Planning practices are the best over finding solutions to recover from ransomware. The consequences of this attack are insurmountable unless a backup is there.

Thus, experts and law-enforcement highly advice the inculcating backup practices to avoid becoming helpless in conditions of data kidnapping. One can simply deny paying the ransom and instead wipe the disk clean to restore it with the latest backup of their data (Sync-and-share).

Findings of the Study: Ransomware can only be as harmful as you let it be. As long as you follow recommended backup practices & ensure the replication of each data updated or changed on your machine(s), even an attack as catastrophic as Ransomware, cannot affect you. Traces of the malware that infects your data / computer during a ransomware attack are wiped clean as soon as the payment is made. The idea behind this is to make the architecture and/or technology behind the malware, confidential from investigators. Thus, as a result the consequences of such an attack remain unavoidable unless a backup is involved.